A lot has changed on Commonwealth Avenue since Christopher Weigl was struck and killed while biking to class at Boston University in 2012. Cycling advocates pushed for improved safety, and the city and state responded by reconstructing the road and adding a protected bike lane.
On Saturday, nearly eight years after Weigl, 23, was killed in Allston, a ghost bike memorial was dedicated to him. The belated honor comes after a years-long project to improve the roadway was completed earlier this year, according to MassBike, an advocacy group.
“Usually ghost bikes are put in a spot to demonstrate how dangerous an area is to be a warning sign for folks,” said Galen Mook, executive director of the group that organized the dedication ceremony. “But that’s not the case with this one because the infrastructure has been changed. [This bike] is more of an example of what advocacy can do.”
The white bike sits about half a block away from the corner of St. Paul Street and Commonwealth Avenue, where the BU graduate student was hit by a truck and killed on the morning of Dec. 6, 2012.
“We wanted this to be a celebration of success in biking advocacy more than a memorial service, and it felt like it was a nice balance of both,” said Andy Weigl, Christopher’s father. “It certainly spoke about Christopher and who he was.”
After Weigl’s death, advocacy groups worked with Boston University, MassDOT and the City of Boston to create a protected bike lane separated from traffic along Commonwealth Avenue.
The lane is about .6 miles long and runs from Packard’s Corner to the Boston University Bridge, along which more than 3,000 cyclists often travel each day in the fall, according to 2019 Boston bike count data. The area is often flooded with Boston University students and busy with trucks, MBTA trolleys, and other traffic.
Mook said this area also has some of the highest bike traffic and bike crash rates in the city.
“This is an extra special area with extra special challenges, even though it’s a small stretch [of Commonwealth Avenue],” Mook said.
The protected lane was installed as part of phase two of the four-phase Commonwealth Avenue Improvement Project, which will upgrade sidewalks, bike lanes, and transit stations along BU’s campus and up toward Boston College. Construction first started on the second phase in 2016 and was completed earlier this year, Mook said.
The project added shortened and raised crosswalks for pedestrians, a consolidated number of stops on the Green Line, and enhanced traffic signals for trolleys, vehicles, and bikes on Commonwealth Avenue, according to the project’s website.
Mook said these much-needed additions to the area will save lives and keep cyclists safe.
“If you asked any cyclist who remembers riding on Commonwealth Avenue before the infrastructure was fixed, they would say that their life was in danger,” Mook said.
Andy Weigl said he hopes the state continues to improve bicycle safety. Tractor-trailers, like the one that killed his son should have mandatory side guards to prevent anyone from slipping under them. There should also be more protected bike lanes.
“Part of today was [about] us trying to support the bike advocacy community so we can keep this from happening again,” Weigl said.